Yesterday, Rutgers men's basketball coach Steve Pikiell was one of many Division I coaches who spoke at the New Jersey Basketball Coaches Clinic at Roselle Catholic high school. He was added to the lineup in replace of Jamie Dixon, who recently left Pitt to become the head coach at TCU. It was a tremendous opportunity for Pikiell to speak in front of many high school coaches in the state.
It was also an impressive lineup of coaches that he was included with. Speakers included Kentucky head coach John Calipari, Kansas head coach Bill Self, SMU head coach Larry Brown, South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, Syracuse associate head coach Mike Hopkins, Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich, and Monmouth head coach King Rice.
Pikiell knows Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff well, as he successfully recruited Boff's former stars in three-time America East player of the year Jameel Warney, and most recently bringing class of 2016 recruit Matt Bullock to Rutgers. Yesterday was important for Pikiell to get in front of many more New Jersey coaches and present his vision for Rutgers. Pikiell displayed a lot of confidence at his introductory press conference and it seems yesterday was no different.
"I'm going to figure out a way to win and then I'm going to recruit to what I want to do." @CoachPikiell to coaches— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 8, 2016
At Stony Brook, Pikiell's teams were traditionally strong defensive teams. Hiring Jay Young this week as an assistant coach was a big addition to Pikiell's staff, as he ran the defense for the Seawolves. It's obvious that Pikiell is going to make defense a priority and Young will be integral in the team's development in that area.
.@CoachPikiell to coaches on Rutgers: "We're going to defend. Fifty percent of basketball is on the defensive end."— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 8, 2016
Adam Zagoria was at the coaches clinic and wrote an insightful article here. He interviewed Linden head coach Phil Colicchio about his impression of Pikiell and his comments were extremely positive:
"I think with such high-profile coaches here today, a Larry Brown, a John Calipari, the one guy who really stuck out and I think most of the people here were really anxious to meet Steve Pikiell, Colicchio told SNY.tv. "And he didn't disappoint. He was really dynamic, I thought he did a really good job of showing us his personality and his vision at Rutgers. And after talking with him on the sideline, I'm really, really excited. I didn't know him prior to this, but I'm really excited of his view of Rutgers and what he thinks he's going to accomplish there, and it seems like he has a plan. For the first time in a while, I'm really, really excited about Rutgers."
Colicchio leads the best public boy's high school basketball team in the state at Linden, who lost to St. Anthony's in the Tournament of Champions Final this season. Linden features sophomore guard Tavon Jones, who could emerge as a big time recruit down the road. Regardless, receiving such a strong endorsement from one of the most prominent coaches in the state, less than a month into his tenure, is a real positive for coach Pikiell.
It has certainly been a whirlwind month for Pikiell, who went from winning the America East conference tournament, to losing to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, to then becoming the head coach at Rutgers. In just a few short weeks, he has made progress in beginning to reshape the image and perception of the Rutgers program. Hiring Karl Hobbs, the longtime UConn assistant and former head coach, added major credibility to the program. Pikiell is undaunted by past history and is playing for keeps. Yesterday was an opportunity for Pikiell to present his vision for the future of Rutgers basketball to many coaches that will have players in the coming years that could be a part of that plan. The days of local coaches lamenting that Rutgers has no recruiting presence in the state should be over for good now. Pikiell has said that he looks at each day as "Did Rutgers get better today?". Yesterday was a big marketing day for the program and the answer is a resounding yes.
Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell talking with NJ high school power coaches Phil Colicchio and Dave Boff pic.twitter.com/d34sMHC9hU— Keith Sargeant (@KSargeantNJ) April 8, 2016